Joseph Lupo agrees. Lupo is a general manager with CoinBits, which helps businesses and investors securely build, manage, and protect their money in a private bitcoin portfolio. “We saw a demand for higher net-worth individuals and businesses who want to invest in this new asset class,” says Lupo. “They need an on-ramp and someone they can trust since bitcoin doesn’t have a team or headquarters, so we started Coinbits Reserve to help businesses and higher net worth individuals invest in bitcoin. We manage their investments but also focus on education and what this new form of digital, finite money can do for them.”
While companies ponder potential business models and use cases for cryptocurrency, there are factors to consider before entering the market. Cryptocurrency is still marked by volatility and wild price fluctuations. And security and regulation compliance concerns can slow adoption in more heavily regulated sectors, such as finance. “Banks are going back and forth on how they can get into crypto compliantly,” says Xi of Prime Trust. “What’s holding them back is that the regulations in this space require both crypto domain knowledge and compliance expertise to understand. Making it worse is that there haven’t been clear regulations on what’s compliant.”
Also pressing is the need for IT infrastructure to evolve to integrate cryptocurrencies. For example, The Pavilions Hotel relies on a legacy booking engine for guests to reserve a hotel room online. However, Toon says the system was unable to accept cryptocurrency payments. The company searched for an alternative, but in the end, Toon says, the hotel chain wasn’t “able to find a suitable vendor that was willing to allow us to put cryptocurrency through the booking engine.”
As a result, rather than book online, The Pavilions’ crypto-paying guests must make a direct booking through the company’s reservations center. Following a call, an agent delivers an email containing a link that guests click on or scan to complete a cryptocurrency payment. It’s an extra step that Toon says can “slow down the process. People want to book now—they don’t want to talk to anyone or email anyone. They just want to make the reservation themselves.”
As cryptocurrencies gain mainstream acceptance, Xi says businesses will increasingly seek out agnostic IT infrastructure that allows for easy integration with a wide array of features and solutions. Otherwise, she notes, “it can become overwhelming and cost prohibitive to deal with multiple vendor integrations.”
Another challenge facing organizations entering the cryptocurrency market is a scarcity of qualified talent— a key component in developing innovative products and services. “We all know that engineering and product talent in crypto is extremely hard to come by these days,” says Xi. Which, she says, can lead to one of two unfavorable outcomes: either “huge costs upfront to staff in-house teams,” or alternatively, if a company chooses to scrape by on a modest-sized team, “a really long time to go to market and a missed opportunity” to gain a competitive edge.
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This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.